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Overview of California Courts of Appeals

Posted by Steve Vondran | Mar 27, 2024

Vondran Legal@ - California Courts of Appeals and Superior Courts Explained.  Call us at (877) 276-5084.

California court system


On November 8, 1904, Article 6 section 4 of the California Constitution was adopted creating 3 District Courts of Appeal: the First District located in San Francisco, the Second District located in Los Angeles, and the Third District located in Sacramento. The Constitution was modified in 1966 and there are now six Courts of Appeal: The Fourth District with Divisions in San Diego, Riverside and Santa Ana, the Fifth District in Fresno and the Sixth District in San Jose.

Overview of California Appellate Court System

Here is a basic introduction of the functions of the California Court of Appeals

The Courts of Appeal were established by constitutional amendment in 1904. They are California's intermediate courts of review and have jurisdiction when superior courts have jurisdiction and in certain other cases prescribed by statute. They exercise mandatory review of any appealable order or judgment from a superior court, except in cases in which the death penalty is imposed, over which the Supreme Court exercises original mandatory jurisdiction. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, § 11) There is no constitutional right to an appeal and the Legislature has the power to determine and change the matters which are appealable. (Powers v. City of Richmond (1995) 10 Cal.4th 85, 108)

The Constitution grants the legislature the authority to divide the State into districts each containing a court of appeal with one or more divisions. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, § 3) California has six appellate districts each organized into at least one division. (Gov. Code 69100) Each division is headed by a presiding justice and has two or more associate justices. Justices are appointed by the Governor after review by the Commission on Judicial Nominations . The Constitution requires that the Governor's appointment must be approved by the Commission on Judicial Appointments which consists of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, and the presiding justice of the court of appeal of the affected district, or if there are 2 or more presiding justices, the one who has presided longest. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, § 7) The Constitution prescribes a term in office of 12 years for justices of the Courts of Appeal, subject to retention by the public at the next general election following appointment and confirmation and at the conclusion of each term. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, § 16)

Appeals from superior court judgments in both criminal and civil cases must be decided on the merits of the case based upon the record on appeal. The Courts of Appeal do not hear testimony, retry the case or reconsider the factual findings of the judge or jury. They review the final judgment or appealable order for prejudicial errors of law. Decisions of the Courts of Appeal that determine a cause shall be in writing with the reasons stated. (Cal. Const., Art. VI, § 14)

Courts of Appeal have original jurisdiction in habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari and prohibition proceedings. In most writ proceedings, the court has discretion whether to decide the merits of the claims set forth in the petition.

Decisions of the Courts of Appeal are subject to discretionary review by the California Supreme Court, however, the scope of review by the Supreme Court differs from that by the Courts of Appeal. The Court of Appeal's primary function is to review the trial courts judgment for legal error. The California Supreme Court's review on the other hand is to decide important legal questions and maintain statewide uniformity of decisions. In addition to review by the Supreme Court, the decisions of the Courts of Appeal are subject to certain types of review in the federal courts based upon United States Constitutional and statutory grounds.

The state Courts of Appeal are to be distinguished from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The United States Court of Appeals exercises jurisdiction under federal laws and represents the intermediate appellate court in the federal court system. It exercises jurisdiction in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Guam, which includes the Northern Mariana Islands. The judges in the federal court system are nominated by the President subject to Senate confirmation and are not subject to periodic retention elections as are the Justices of the state Courts of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District is required to hold its regular sessions in San Francisco (Gov. Code 69101). It is located at 350 McAllister Street.

First District Court of Appeals

Today the 20 justices of the First Appellate District serve the residents of twelve Northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma. Each year the justices review over 2000 criminal, civil, and juvenile appeals and over 1300 original proceedings.

Second District Court of Appeals

The Second District held its first session on April 24, 1905. It is now made up of four counties, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. There are eight Divisions of four justices each. Divisions 1-5, 7 and 8 are located in Los Angeles, and handle all matters arising from the Los Angeles Superior Court. Division 6 is located in Ventura and handles all matters from the Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Superior Courts.

Courts of Appeal review final judgments of Superior Courts for prejudicial errors of law. Most appellate dispositions are by written opinion. The Second District files over 5,000 appellate opinions each year. 

There are 32 Justices in the Second District. Justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Newly appointed Justices must be retained by the public at the next general election and at the end of each 12 year term.

Third District Court of Appeals

Located in Sacramento, California's Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, is one of the three original courts of appeal established by constitutional amendment in 1904. Its jurisdiction stretches over 23 countiesPDF file type icon: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba. The geographical area of the District is larger than the combined area of Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

During its history, five of the Court's justices have gone on to serve as justices of the state Supreme Court. 

Fourth District Court of Appeals

The new district originally included the counties of Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, and Imperial. The territory of the Fourth District shrank in 1961. A new Fifth District sitting in Fresno siphoned off the Central Valley counties, leaving the six counties of Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, and Imperial for the Fourth District. San Diego became its headquarters, and the court went every other month for two-day sessions in San Bernardino.

Division Two of the Fourth District was created by legislation passed in 1965. It sat in the City of San Bernardino. By oral agreement of the justices in the district, Division One in San Diego handled all court matters originating in Imperial and San Diego Counties. Division Two took filings from Inyo, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. Appeals from Orange County were divided between the divisions, and original proceedings were handled by Division Two.

In 1982, Division Three in Santa Ana was formed, and assumed jurisdiction of all cases from Orange County. Division Three is the only state appellate court whose jurisdiction is limited to a single county. Its original four justices began considering cases in January 1983.

The Fourth District and each of its three divisions have operated in many locations. The District has had six locations in San Diego. In May 1930, its very first session was held in Department 4 of the Superior Court Building. It then established itself that year at the historic Spreckels Building (then known as the Bank of Italy Building). During the 1930s and 1940s, the Court settled in at the Electric Building at 861 Sixth Avenue. From 1950 to 1963, the Court was located at 620 Ash Street. In 1963, it moved to the State Building, 1350 Front Street, and twenty-five years later when it ran out of space, it moved to its present quarters in Symphony Towers, 750 “B” Street.

Fifth District Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District's jurisdiction encompasses nine counties located in central California: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne. The court is located at 2424 Ventura Street in downtown Fresno. The clerk's office can be reached by telephone at (559) 445-5491.

Sixth District Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District was established November 12, 1984, and handles cases from the counties of Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.The purpose of the Courts of Appeal is to assist the California Supreme Court in providing appellate review for the 58 county superior courts by deciding appeals from final judgments and appealable orders, as well as by ruling on extraordinary writ petitions such as habeas corpus and mandamus.

The 58 California Superior Courts

For your ease of reference, here are the Superior Courts in California that feed cases to the Appellate Courts in the six districts described above.

1. Alameda County Superior Court
Address: 1225 Fallon St, Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 891-6000

2. Alpine County Superior Court
Address: 14777 CA-89, Markleeville, CA 96120
Phone: (530) 694-2113

3. Amador County Superior Court
Address: 500 Argonaut Ln, Jackson, CA 95642
Phone: (209) 223-6461

4. Butte County Superior Court
Address: 1 Court St, Oroville, CA 95965
Phone: (530) 532-7003

5. Calaveras County Superior Court
Address: 400 Government Center Dr, San Andreas, CA 95249
Phone: (209) 754-6000

6. Colusa County Superior Court
Address: 532 Oak St, Colusa, CA 95932
Phone: (530) 458-5141

7. Contra Costa County Superior Court
Address: 725 Court St, Martinez, CA 94553
Phone: (925) 608-1000

8. Del Norte County Superior Court
Address: 450 H St, Crescent City, CA 95531
Phone: (707) 464-8115

9. El Dorado County Superior Court
Address: 495 Main St, Placerville, CA 95667
Phone: (530) 295-1300

10. Fresno County Superior Court
Address: 1100 Van Ness Ave, Fresno, CA 93724
Phone: (559) 457-2000

11. Glenn County Superior Court
Address: 526 W Sycamore St, Willows, CA 95988
Phone: (530) 934-6446

12. Humboldt County Superior Court
Address: 825 5th St, Eureka, CA 95501
Phone: (707) 445-7256

13. Imperial County Superior Court
Address: 939 W Main St, El Centro, CA 92243
Phone: (442) 265-1384

14. Inyo County Superior Court
Address: 168 N Edwards St, Independence, CA 93526
Phone: (760) 878-2242

15. Kern County Superior Court
Address: 1415 Truxtun Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301
Phone: (661) 868-4934

16. Kings County Superior Court
Address: 1640 Kings County Dr, Hanford, CA 93230
Phone: (559) 582-1010

17. Lake County Superior Court
Address: 255 N Forbes St, Lakeport, CA 95453
Phone: (707) 263-2374

18. Lassen County Superior Court
Address: 220 S Lassen St, Susanville, CA 96130
Phone: (530) 251-8205

19. Los Angeles County Superior Court
Address: 111 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 830-0803

20. Madera County Superior Court
Address: 209 W Yosemite Ave, Madera, CA 93637
Phone: (559) 675-7200

21. Marin County Superior Court
Address: 3501 Civic Center Dr, San Rafael, CA 94903
Phone: (415) 473-6358

22. Mariposa County Superior Court
Address: 5088 Bullion St, Mariposa, CA 95338
Phone: (209) 966-2005

23. Mendocino County Superior Court
Address: 100 N State St, Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: (707) 463-4664

24. Merced County Superior Court
Address: 627 W 21st St, Merced, CA 95340
Phone: (209) 725-4109

25. Modoc County Superior Court
Address: 204 S Court St, Alturas, CA 96101
Phone: (530) 233-6516

26. Mono County Superior Court
Address: 278 Main St, Bridgeport, CA 93517
Phone: (760) 932-5400

27. Monterey County Superior Court
Address: 1200 Aguajito Rd, Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: (831) 647-5800

28. Napa County Superior Court
Address: 825 Brown St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 299-1100

29. Nevada County Superior Court
Address: 201 Church St, Nevada City, CA 95959
Phone: (530) 265-1293

30. Orange County Superior Court
Address: 700 Civic Center Dr W, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Phone: (657) 622-6878

31. Placer County Superior Court
Address: 10820 Justice Center Dr, Roseville, CA 95678
Phone: (916) 408-6009

32. Plumas County Superior Court
Address: 520 Main St, Quincy, CA 95971
Phone: (530) 283-6232

33. Riverside County Superior Court
Address: 4050 Main St, Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: (951) 955-6430

34. Sacramento County Superior Court
Address: 720 9th St, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 874-5522

35. San Benito County Superior Court
Address: 450 4th St, Hollister, CA 95023
Phone: (831) 636-4057

36. San Bernardino County Superior Court
Address: 351 N Arrowhead Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92415
Phone: (909) 384-1888

37. San Diego County Superior Court
Address: 220 W Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 450-7239

38. San Francisco County Superior Court
Address: 400 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 551-4000

39. San Joaquin County Superior Court
Address: 180 E Weber Ave, Stockton, CA 95202.
Phone: (209) 992-5447

40. San Luis Obispo County Superior Court
Address: 1035 Palm St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
Phone: (805) 781-5670

41. San Mateo County Superior Court
Address: 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063
Phone: (650) 261-5100

42. Santa Barbara County Superior Court
Address: 312 E Cook St, Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 614-6420

43. Santa Clara County Superior Court
Address: 191 N 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113
Phone: (408) 882-2100

44. Santa Cruz County Superior Court
Address: 701 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: (831) 420-2200

45. Shasta County Superior Court
Address: 1500 Court St, Redding, CA 96001
Phone: (530) 225-5700

46. Sierra County Superior Court
Address: 100 Courthouse Square, Downieville, CA 95936
Phone: (530) 289-3698

47. Siskiyou County Superior Court
Address: 311 4th St, Yreka, CA 96097
Phone: (530) 842-8066

48. Solano County Superior Court
Address: 600 Union Ave, Fairfield, CA 94533
Phone: (707) 207-7500

49. Sonoma County Superior Court
Address: 600 Administration Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: (707) 521-6500

50. Stanislaus County Superior Court
Address: 801 10th St, Modesto, CA 95354
Phone: (209) 530-3100

51. Sutter County Superior Court
Address: 446 2nd St, Yuba City, CA 95991
Phone: (530) 822-3302

52. Tehama County Superior Court
Address: 1740 Walnut St, Red Bluff, CA 96080
Phone: (530) 529-3036

53. Trinity County Superior Court
Address: 11 Court St, Weaverville, CA 96093
Phone: (530) 623-1208

54. Tulare County Superior Court
Address: 221 S Mooney Blvd, Visalia, CA 93291
Phone: (559) 730-5000

55. Tuolumne County Superior Court
Address: 60 N Washington St, Sonora, CA 95370
Phone: (209) 533-5563

56. Ventura County Superior Court
Address: 800 S Victoria Ave, Ventura, CA 93009
Phone: (805) 654-2963

57. Yolo County Superior Court
Address: 1000 Main St, Woodland, CA 95695
Phone: (530) 406-6789

58. Yuba County Superior Court
Address: 215 5th St, Marysville, CA 95901
Phone: (530) 749-7600

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About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337

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